Vanity thought #1057. A Piece of PIE

Ukrainian conflict got back into the news over the weekend, apparently Ukrainian army scored a major victory and captured some key cities while Russians say that all their fighters got out safely and were freed from being tied to defending the indefensible.

This is a mysterious conflict that can only be explained by Kali Yuga – these people share the same history, they worship the same gods, speak the same language, and yet now they are at each other’s throats. Official line of thought is that it’s murderous, Hitler-like Putin who wants to restore Soviet Union to its old borders but I don’t think general public buy into this anymore.

To understand what’s going on there one must look into region’s history, and the first look at history reveals that there’s no consensus there whatsoever. Western sources just quote local textbooks and Russian and Ukrainian versions are simply incompatible to make any conclusions with any degree of confidence.

The whole story lasted several hundred years with Austrians, Germans, Poles, Lithuanians, Tatars, Turks, and Russians ruling the area at one time or another. Ukrainians, naturally, view it as their struggle for independence. There are lots of dates, names, and places that one must forget even before understanding who or what they were, unless you live there and have a personal stake that somehow influences your devotional life it’s all garbage.

There is one interesting topic there, however – the ancient history of Ukraine. It doesn’t have any bearing on the current events but listen to this – Ukrainians claim that they are the original Aryans who then spread all over the world, including India.

To fully appreciate the impact of that statement – they are convinced that Noah, Jesus, and even Buddha were originally Ukrainians. Obviously they weren’t born in Ukraine but they were born in the families of Ukrainian descent, the true Aryans.

With Buddha they argue that while the word itself means “enlightened” he wasn’t the only one called “Buddha” in the family and that tells us that the name indicates their family origins rather than achievements. There are several possible locations where Buddha’s family might have emigrated from: Seredyna-Buda or Budy, or Budi, take your pick.

With Jesus they argue that Galilee was a place inhabited by emigrants from Galicia, the heartland of the modern Ukrainian nationalistic movement. They also say that he was blue eyed, tall, blond, and muscular, like Ukrainians are, and that before dying he spoke a strange language that was actually Ukrainian.

Ancient Ukrainians are also the ones who invented the wheel, fire, and taught Egyptians to build pyramids.

What is truly amazing is that it might actually be true.

Current theory is that Sanskrit and Aryans were people of PIE – Proto-Indo-Europeans, they had their language, culture and religion that then spread all over the world. Most popular location for these PIE people is not far from Ukraine, in the vicinity of Volga River in Russia, and Ukraine was probably the first place they migrated to.

Ukraine has the remnants of the same Kurgan culture, huge burial mounds left by PIE people, it’s just a matter of whose kurgans were built earlier.

Language wise it should be noted that Jesus in all languages but English begins with sounds “i” or “y”, not “j”, and so “Yesus” sounds close to Ukrainian/Russian “Yasny”, which means bright and clear, or Sanksrit “Yaśa”, which means fame and reputation, which is supposed to be spotless, I guess.

Ukrainian Budy or Budi means “wake up”, “awaken”, which is so close to “enlightenment” it’s uncanny.

For arm chair etymologist like me it’s pretty clear that all those languages came from the same source, and aryans riding chariots is not an unfamiliar image either (hint – cover of Bhagavad Gīta).

Doesn’t it contradict our view that Sanskrit was the original language and India was the birthplace of Aryans? Not at all, there is plenty of leeway for compromise here.

First of all, I saw Śrila Prabhupāda himself talking about Iran as the land of Aryans, that’s what everyone else accepts now, too, but it doesn’t mean origin of Aryans for us and it doesn’t mean origin of Aryans for historians either. We say the culture was spread all over the world since time immemorial, which means for millions and millions of years.

When Ukrainians talk about Aryans living there in ancient times they are absolutely right, it simply doesn’t mean that Aryans originated there. It could also be possible for those proto-Ukrainians, or Proto-Russians, whoever claims to be the first, to spread from there to Iran, Europe, Turkey etc. Should not bother us.

I think it’s reasonable to accept that Aryan culture deteriorated unevenly across the world and that it’s possible that there were movements from one dying Aryan country to another and that there were local religions and languages sprouting in different places that grew isolated from each other.

What about relationships between this PIE and Vedas? I think that we should remember that “Vedas” is a relatively recent invention – Kali Yuga started five thousand years ago, it took time for Śrīla Vyāsadeva to notice deterioration of people’s memory, get down to work of dividing Vedas, pass them on to his disciples for development, and get everything eventually written down. Considering that Vyāsadeva is immortal and sages working on Vedas do not die easily either, a thousand or two thousand years is no big deal, which is when historians think Vedas first made their entrance.

That was an important point, of course, because it cast Vedas in stone, so to speak, but it doesn’t mean that language used by Aryans for thousand years prior to that was exactly the same. Sanskrit wasn’t the same before Panini’s grammar, no one denies that. Written form requires written rules, and we also know that Sanskrit wasn’t the language used by general population then, for general purposes there was Prakrit, and so who is to say that PIE people didn’t speak Prakrit, too, so that modern languages’ roots come from Prakrit and not from Sanskrit proper. We don’t even know what Sanskrit was like before written Vedas, don’t forget that.

Come to think of it, if Sanskrit was used for transmitting transcendental knowledge then it didn’t have to be fixed – English works just fine for us, for example. If it was used for conducting ceremonies and sacrifices we can’t be sure that in previous eras same mantras could have been far more sophisticated and sounded differently then those written down by Vyāsadeva for usage in Kali Yuga. It’s not the form that is important, after all, it’s whether language serves its purpose or not. Possibility of minor differences that do not affect the outcome should not freak us out.

Yes, there are examples of one little change in pronunciation completely changing results of a yajña but that doesn’t mean that brāhmaṇas who knew their craft inside out didn’t have multiple ways to achieve same results. Uniformity is very useful for us, people of Kali Yuga, because we have no clue what we are actually saying and just hope that our sounds carry real power, but those who called demigods to appear before them on a daily basis could have easily done that in different ways and make no mistakes at all.

The most important point, however, is that our spiritual progress depends on our performance NOW and not on authenticity of our roots. We know our method works regardless of where Aryans lived ten thousand years ago. We don’t need to trace our roots back to them or to anyone else. Lord Caitanya is as far back in history as we ever need to look.

Many of us, and especially Indians, are very eager to prove supremacy of Vedic culture but ask yourself – why should it change anything in the way we practice devotional service now? It would make us feel safer and more confident but those are not really spiritual arguments. Our progress does not depend on what we do or do not know, it depends on our sincerity and simplicity. And we already know more than enough, so searching through history does not help us at all. It’s still a fascinating subject, though, can’t stop myself.

I’ll leave with the painting of Russian version of their Vedic times, there’s a whole series of those here:

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